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Monday, February 29, 2016

Oscars 2016: We're Still Talking About Diversity in Terms of Black and White

After Sunday night's Oscars, I think it's safe to say that Chris Rock will not be friends with Jada Pinkett-Smith, wife of actor Will Smith, who starred in Concussion, and whose performance many believed was "snubbed" (but did they hear his bad accent though?). He basically said, in light of her refusal to attend this year's ceremony, that she probably wouldn't have been invited anyway (which could actually have been true, but it was funny because it was Rock keeping it real). As expected, the comedian went all the way in on the controversial lack of diverse acting nominees and #OscarsSoWhite--even recycling his previous Oscar bit where he visits a black neighborhood and asks folks their opinions on the nominees (they thought he was actually making up some of these movies. NOPE).

But, yet again, the rhetoric focused strictly on black representation--ignoring the fact that no Asian, Latino or any other ethnic actors were nominated either (for whom the Oscars have an even lower tolerance). Rock made references to the history of racism against black people in America, even noting that people could have really chosen literally any year to boycott the Oscars, but was back in the day probably more focused on being lynched and the KKK (another one of those "it's funny because it's true" Chris Rock moments).

While he was dead-on in his opening monologue, it just reaffirmed how attention continues to go unpaid for other marginalized groups. Most think pieces I've read have focused on the lack of black representation, the history of Oscars' relationship with black performances, to the point where #OscarsSoWhite has been turned into a #WhereAreTheBlackActors? conversation? How is it that in 2016 we are completely okay with dividing marginalized ethnicity groups, making their collective platforms weaker?

Some say not enough Latino and Asian actors, for instance, have spoken out against the lack of representation. But I'd argue that they have spoken out--including Gina Rodriguez and Ken Jeong--but for some reason their comments never make as big of a wave (which begs the question "Whose comments actually matter?).

This has been a long time bee in my hornet, since we've first reopened this discussion about what it means to be diverse and inclusive--and it still hasn't really been acknowledged.

But of course, I'd be remiss not to mention Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu's second consecutive Oscar win lastre night for the remarkable The Revenant. However, I still maintain that Hollywood only warmed up to his talent since he started working almost exclusively with white casts in recent years. He previously made a career out of highlight many Latino talent in great movies like Biutiful and Amores Perros. Yet it was only when Iñárritu linked up with Michael Keaton and co. for Birdman that he actually started being taken seriously. Coincidence? I think not.

I'm not going to spend this whole post lamenting over the wins I didn't like (because I really did like Rock as the host, otherwise), so here are a list of my favorite wins:

  • Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant (because, finally)
  • Best Actress: Brie Larson for Room (one of the most well deserved wins ever, seriously)
  • Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl (the only great thing about that movie)
  • Basically all the Tech Categories: Mad Max: Fury Road (maybe one day we can finally live in a world where genre films are respected as more than "visually impressive" with amazing performance, but until then this is pretty awesome)
See the full list of winners here


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